X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Carlo Pagulayan and Jason Paz
Coloring by Wil Quintana
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Ladies and gentlemen, let's get ready to rumble!
In the blue corner, standing on the island known as Utopia, they're hated, they're feared, they're the all-new, all-different Uncanny X-Men. And in the red corner, we have Jeff Parker's critically acclaimed -- but commercially shaky -- band of pulp-influenced adventurers, the Agents of Atlas. The result? It's not the quick knock-out that you might expect, but all being said, it is certainly a book that seems to have some potential.
Writing-wise, Jeff Parker is really a chameleon with his style -- he has a very commanding grasp of the X-Men's voices, and he manages to channel that same sense of whimsy and character juggling that has made regular X-writer Matt Fraction so popular. But of course, you can tell that Parker cares even more for his real babies, the Agents of Atlas -- as someone who hasn't been keeping up with the series beyond the previews on this site, some of the jokes may be a bit tough to get, but certain gags -- such as describing M-11 as "Killer robot. 'Reformed.' " -- were fairly universal.
But a lot of the first half of the book is pure set-up, and I'll be honest, parts of it move slower than others. But once the X-Men discover that intruders are on the island (in another well-paced and amusing scene), everything goes crazy. On the one hand, a lot of the characterization goes out the window. But on the other, Parker does know how to pace a fight scene effectively, giving each character their own chance to shine.
In terms of the art, I feel that penciler Carlo Pagulayan gets off to a slow start on this book, and doesn't really recover his footing until nearly two-thirds of the way in. Despite some beautiful coloring by Wil Quintana, the composition of the introduction just left me cold, as the first few pages were largely distance shots -- especially an introductory shot looking Cyclops and Emma Frost as they drove to Utopia. Pagulayan seems to be more at home with the Agents of Atlas, as their character designs and introduction look much smoother compositionally. Yet his art takes on a level of skill rivaling Phil Jimenez with the fight sequences -- whether it's Storm being chased by Namora, or Wolverine actually having a distinct pose when he leaps from Cloak's teleporting folds -- but the problem is that there's more to this story than fighting.
Or at least, there should be. As far as first issues go, Jeff Parker does a fine job laying in the set-up, while giving the issue enough adrenaline mid-way through to keep it alive. The question is whether or not his own unique voice will be able to come out in future issues, to really exploit the X-Men's success to jumpstart his precariously-placed team. This first issue is far from perfect, with decent writing being handicapped by a slow start by both lead creators -- but maybe something down the road during this clash of the titans will make X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas a series to remember.